Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July 1: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Jāņi, Baptisms, MEAT!, Baptist Church

From: Jordan Argyle
Date: Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 3:58 AM
Subject: Baltic Chŗonīcļe: Ligo/Jāņi, Baptisms, MEAT!, Baptist Church

Hey. 121,532 steps this week (94.74KM)! That's quite a beefy distance!

Pictures: Top: These are the stuffed peppers that Elder Spears made. They are stuffed with broccoli, cheese, onion, and spices. They were WAY good, and everybody loved them!

Next: Also at our Līgo celebration: This is me being Zacchaeus from the New Testament. It was kinda fun. I was acting out waiting for Christ again, after I had changed. The kids liked it.
Third: This is the group in Iecava celebrating Līgo. From left to right: Spears, Farnsworth, President Lepešs, Elizebeth (their daughter), Ilze Lepeša, in the back there is Māsa Šulca (at whose house we are), then me, and Udy. The girl in front is Rebeka and the little one is Anja, and the lady in the very front is Māsa Janoviča. Rebeka and Anja are her daughters. She also has a son who was there, but he ran out of the picture, so we don't have Jazeps in there at all. It was really fun. These people are AMAZING!!!

Last: Us digging a ditch-type thing at the Baptist church. Left to right: Udy, Farnsworth, Spears, and Briggs (the Baptist preacher).

Q+A from last week:

This week was a lot better. Almost everything was resolved or I felt a great peace about it. It's been really good. President Senkāns with his wife came for church and gave a killer talk, and President Dance came down for our district meeting, so it seems that all knew we needed some extra something. And all the members of my district are now more focused, and have a goal to stay that way. Rad.

I think our landlady is desperate for money, and she knows, because our church has a good reputation here, that we'll hold up to our end of the bargain. She's Jewish, it turns out, and she's way nice. There are people here who are doing OK financially, but they are definitely in the minority. Actually, most people could survive, if they just budgeted and thought about what they did with their money before they acted. And didn't waste so much of their money on alcohol and cigarettes.

Our new apartment is on the first and a half floor (meaning it's a slightly elevated first floor), there is no elevator at all, and it's right by the church. We changed because the apartment we were in was really gross (floors were sick, and the bathroom was less-than-savory), and because we could get better now that the economy here is bad. Basically, we could live wherever we wanted, because practically everybody needs money, and would accept almost anything we offered for their place. I've only met two of our neighbors--people here aren't overly friendly that way. In America, when you move in someplace you spend some time getting to know the neighbors. That doesn't really happen here. But one, when I was coming in, saw I was a missionary and asked, "Do you have an invitation to be here?" I said, "Yes." He asked, "Who?" I said, "In number one." "Oh, well then, good luck!" The other neighbor was a nice older Latvian lady that I helped carry a bunch of stuff up to the fourth floor.

And from this week:
The branch activity was amazing! More details on that later. Ligo/Jani is basically a two-day drunken fest. The entire country almost is shut down on the 24th (excepting some of the huge stores, like Maxima and Rimi and some random places...most transport still runs a little bit, too), and everything closes early on the 23rd. You could say the whole country just closes down, yes. It seems to only be in Latvia. I mean, they celebrate it in other countries, but in the Baltic States, it is by far the biggest deal in Latvia.

Maxima is an interesting store. Basically, they still do things here like they did in the Soviet times--little grocery stores. But they now have a bit of capitalism in a communist application--they have little versons of Maxima and Rimi and Iki and the like, along with a lot of little stand-alone stores. These resemble most gas stations in America. Then they have mid-sized stores for the big-name places (for Maxima it's the XX, the rest keep the name the same), and these are like convenience stores. And then you have the Hyper-veikali (hyper stores), XXX Maximas and the like. These are like superstores in America, and the XXX in Pļavniekos in Rīgā feels just like a Walmart--capitalistic, and only cares about you because you have money. (Jordan's mom says--Jordan has strong feelings about Walmart-type stores ")).They have basically everything that is available, and some things you can't get elsewhere. And because it feels like a warehouse made into a store, things are cheaper there. That's how stores here go.
They do not have anything like Slurpees. And their doughnuts would cause any doughnut-loving soul to cringe at the pathetic imitation. But, there is one place in Rīgā on Aleksandra Čaka iela that sells Virtuļi--doughnuts. And those are basically jelly-filled doughnuts that are better in my opinion than anything I've eaten from Krispy Kream, or however you spell that place that people go all goo-goo for their doughnuts. Something in that last sentence was gramatically wrong, but I can't figure it out. Ladna. Moving on.

So, Jāņi. The Līgo activity went well. We had 11 people, including the branch president from Rīga center. He's so good. Anyway, we ate delectable stuffed peppers, while everyone else had Šošliki. Also, I jumped through the fire (it's supposed to be over, but I decided to jump over it when it was still really high), and the conversation was great. I love the branch here!! We even made it home safely from Māsas Šulcas place. Afterwards, finding people to teach was weird, because there were so many people elsewhere. But, not bad.

So, our meat fast is over. Now, we'll go back to normal eating habits. It's harder to be creative as a vegetarian sometimes...but it was all good. I just realized that I forgot to write last week about what I ate. Oh's not important enough for me to remember, sorry. But it was basically more of the same/similar from the weeks before.

I'm basically stoked out of my wits. The sisters in Center have been teaching several people for a long time. Ivi. is that amazing girl who has had a really hard time quitting smoking. She just decided to go for it, and she's doing very well!! She'll be baptized in a few weeks!!! And everyting else that she has had problems with have just solved themselves--work on Sunday, family situations, and all else. I'm so excited for her!
Evi. also has been taught for a long time. She hasn't been able to be baptized because she's not married to the man she lives with. She's been waiting for her divorce papers to go through with her husband so that she can marry the guy she's with now. They will be going through in six weeks, and the wedding is all set up. The day after her wedding, she'll be getting baptized. That will be Sister Wilson's last week here in the Baltics. Crazy! But I'm way excited for Evi. also.

Helvijs is a member here. His mother has been investigating the church for years, watching her son go on a mission and all else. I just found out that she's going to be baptized this Saturday!!! That is something I've been waiting for my whole mission!!!
And, our investigator, Agris, has a date for baptism! It'll be the 11th of August. He's a rock-solid guy who is amazing, and he really has thought a lot about what he will do. He's a student from our English class, and he speaks quite well.

So, basically the work is just exploding with all the people that I love and have been praying for for a long time. It couldn't have come at a better time, because last week through this Sunday were really, really hard on me. And now I've witnessed again that if you just stay strong through the hard times, it all works out. My hopes are so high right now, and my faith is going to help me teach so many people!!
Quick note: We went to the Baptist church again, this time to dig a ditch. It was really fun, and we got to talk with the preacher for a while. It was a great Saturday morning, and he's a remarkable fellow. That's him in the last picture on the far right.

My spiritual thought is this: God loves us, and He always has His hands extended towards us. All we need to do is come to Him. It may not be easy--it's never been easy for anybody who is religious. Ask anyone who has faith, and they will tell you that their lives aren't perfect, and that they have problems. However, they have the strength of the Lord to aid them. And when we hold out until the end, we see that we have received the best that we could have. Those who don't believe in God because they have not seen His help or influence in their lives are too impatient, and/or they simply look over the grace of God in offering His help and power to them, and attribute it selfishly to themselves. But I know, now again from personal experience, that persistence in the path of God yields blessings. Great blessings and benefits. And it is thusly with all. So, I again invite you all to keep reading in the Book of Mormon, learn about God, and PRAY TO HIM to know from the Spirit. Without that, all that knowledge is meaningless. It does nothing for you. I again promise you that you, like so many others I have spoken with, WILL RECEIVE AN ANSWER to your prayers. I know this is so. I have lived this. So can you. Try it.

I love you all! You are in my prayers!
Elder Argyle
( >/°¥< )

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